“Saint Benedict of Nursia, Nursia also spelled Norcia (born c. 480, Nursia [Italy]—died c. 547, Monte Cassino; feast day July 11, formerly March 21), founder of the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino and father of Western monasticism; the rule that he established became the norm for monastic living throughout Europe. In 1964, in view of the work of monks following the Benedictine Rule in the evangelization and civilization of so many European countries in the Middle Ages, Pope Paul VI proclaimed him the patron saint of all Europe.”
He was a small man, strangely dressed (for wintertime Detroit, anyway) with a long grayish robe made of a very coarse material, sandals, and a staff that nearly equalled his own height. But more than the relative strangeness of his clothing and appearance, what was readily apparent to Tom and Peggy Brennan was that this man was obviously very afraid. Of what, they simply could not imagine. Truth be told, they figured that if anyone should be afraid it should probably be them since it was they who had discovered the stranger that morning in the St. Benedict room of the El Moore. Just sitting there on the side of the bed, trembling slightly, staring out the window.
“Wow,” Tom had said. “Well this is interesting, wouldn’t you say?”
“I’m thinking of other words,” responded Peggy, her normally cheerful demeanor clouding over. “You know, this room is reserved for the weekend.”
“Well, you know, we always said this was going to be an adventure.”
“I’m still thinking of other words,” repeated Peggy.
“I hear ya, hon,” said Tom. “Well, I still think we should introduce ourselves.”
“You first,” said Peggy.
So he did, and then she did. But neither managed to elicit more than a terrified stare, followed by some incomprehensible mumbling in a tongue they couldn’t quite make out. When Tom motioned for him to leave the bed and take a look out the window, thinking the beautiful view might relax him a bit, he shook his head wildly and his mumblings only grew louder.
After a few more hours had passed, Peggy just wanted to know how the man had gotten into the building. The stranger had no key, spoke no English, apparently had no car or bicycle, and was an extremely picky eater. She knew this because after dispatching Tom to Whole Foods, Peggy had used the kitchen of an extremely curious resident’s apartment to bake and prepare a virtual feast featuring a wide selection of vegan and non-vegan choices, not knowing what their mysterious guest might prefer, but about the only thing he dared to touch were the grapes and occasionally some cheese.
“I don’t mean to be impolite,” said Peggy, staring intently at her husband as the two of them sat in twin chairs across from the large bed upon which their visitor continued to sit clinging to his staff, “but I whipped up quite a spread here. I mean look at all this. And for someone who broke into our building! Maybe I’m just being too nice. I know he doesn’t speak English, but it’s easy enough for any courteous person to find a way to say thank you so someone might understand it. ”
Tom nodded thoughtfully.
“That’s a very good point, Peggy” he said.
“Thanks, but what are we going to do?” she asked.
“Well, for now, I say we just let him spend the night. He’s strange, but he doesn’t seem harmful. Who knows, maybe he will disappear again?”
Peggy just stared.
“Other words?” asked Tom.
The three of them sat quietly in the room for the next five minutes or so, the visitor observing them, the Brennans observing their visitor. Then suddenly, Tom’s eyes stretched open wide. He leaned in closer toward his visitor, who responded by leaning backward at the same rate, as if he were worried Tom might try to eat him.
“Peggy!” he blurted.
“I’m right here, Tom.”
“You’re going to think I’m crazy but…oh my God…I think I know who this is…”